Three Winners in Three ePrix Races
The third Formula E event took place this weekend beside the sunny beaches of Uruguay’s Punta del Este circuit. The track had been likened to "the Monaco of South America" with its narrow, winding nature, lack of room to overtake, and the tight corners which would provide such drama.
This race also saw the debut of three new drivers in the Formula E format – Antonio Garcia for China Racing, Salvador Duran for Amlin Aguri and former Toro Rosso driver who left Formula One this season, Jean-Eric Vergne, driving for Andretti Autosport. Duran and Vergne both received the FanBoost perk along with Nick Heidfeld before the race began.
Fresh From Formula 1
Vergne’s Formula E debut got off to a fantastic start as he took pole ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr. However, the second- and fourth- placed cars were close enough to take advantage of the inside line coming into the first corner and were able to shoot past, so Piquet Jr. took first place from Vergne and Prost was displaced by teammate Sebastien Buemi.
However, the race would not be a smooth one. The lack of room and convergence of tight corners on the Uruguay track led to an early crash; Sam Bird, the winner of the previous race in his Virgin Racing car, had the front of his car lift off the track and was unable to regain control, smashing into the tyre barrier.
Sam Bird leads the charge
This caused the release of a safety car, but also opened up the field; no matter what happened beyond this point, there would be a new winner for this race.
Unfortunately, the safety car was back out only one lap later when Antonio Felix de Costa was forced to pull off the track with a technical problem. His car could not be towed away safely without a safety car and so it was deployed once more; and then again a few laps later as Stephane Sarrazin spun out and crashed.
The safety cars had become a problem for Jean-Eric Vergne. Up until this point, he had been held up behind Nelson Piquet Jr. Clearly, he had the pace to overtake the Brazilian, but had been unable to due to the narrow track and the fact that his FanBoost wasn’t working.
Close-up of Karun Chandhok in the Mahindra Racing Formula E car
He pushed hard and was eventually able to slip past him, but had had to use up too much power to do so and had to pit. He pulled into the pits, but just as he exited the pit lane, the safety car was deployed at the wrong moment and he was jumped by Heidfeld and Buemi, who moved up as they could pit while the safety car was out.
After the third safety car period, Heidfeld was given a drive-through penalty for exceeding maximum power usage which left Vergne back in first place and Buemi in second. The final safety car was brought out two laps from the end, when Vergne’s teammate Michael Brabham crashed out on turn 15 and was forced to retire; his exit was emotional as he had had an outstanding race up until that point after a disappointing qualifier.
It looked like it was a set field – Vergne first, Buemi second and Nelson Piquet Jr. in third. But fate was not yet finished with the beleaguered ex-Toro Rosso debutant, and his car ground to a halt with a technical failure just a few corners from the end of the race.
He was forced to retire, allowing Sebastien Buemi to take his first win of the season, Piquet Jr. to take China Racing’s first podium and Lucas di Grassi to come in third, continuing his unbroken run of podiums.
The race was an unlucky one for Vergne, who would have won several times over despite having so many issues with his car and bad timing of safety cars. Unfortunately, it was not to be, but we hope to see a lot more of the Frenchman next time in Brazil.
Sebastien Buemi celebrates in Uruguay
Unpredictable Excitement of ePrix
Interestingly, it has been three different cars and three different teams so far which have taken victory. The standard construction of all the cars has led to a very even field which relies on luck, FanBoost and driver skill rather than mechanics, and therefore race outcomes are unpredictable, stoking the excitement at every event.
This does not mean to say that there is not a clear winner in the drivers’ standings, though; Lucas di Grassi, having taken three podiums in a row, is 18 points clear of his nearest competition, with Buemi and Britain’s Sam Bird tied for second place.
The teams are remaining in South America for the next race on January 10th. Will Vergne display the same determination and spirit he showed today and manage to take victory? Will di Grassi extend his lead further? Or will Buemi and Bird step up to the challenge and pull out all the stops to snatch first place from under his nose?
It’s all to play for in Formula E. Don’t miss out. The races are being shown live on ITV 4 and with the thrilling climax happening in Battersea Park, London in June 2015, you could fly directly to the ePrix with Atlas Helicopters.